Stars And Stripes: Esquire’s Navy SEAL Health Care Claim Is False

From Stars And Stripes:

Esquire magazine claims “The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden … Is Screwed.”

The story details the life of the Navy SEAL after the successful raid to take out the No. 1 terrorist, and it asserts that once the SEAL got out of the military he was left to fend for himself.

“…here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation:

Nothing. No pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family.”

Except the claim about health care is wrong. And no servicemember who does less than 20 years gets a pension, unless he has to medically retire.

Like every combat veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the former SEAL, who is identified in the story only as “the Shooter”, is automatically eligible for five years of free healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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From Esquire’s Rebuttal:

In response to “The Shooter”, a reporter for Stars & Stripes, Megan McCloskey, wrote a story which focused on this passage in Bronstein’s piece:

“But the Shooter will discover soon enough that when he leaves after sixteen years in the Navy, his body filled with scar tissue, arthritis, tendonitis, eye damage, and blown disks, here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation: Nothing. No pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family.”

McCloskey’s story is entitled, “Esquire article wrongly claims SEAL who killed bin Laden is denied healthcare” and it is that headline that contains her first factual error, for nowhere in Bronstein’s piece does he write that the Shooter was “denied” healthcare. Rather, what Bronstein’s piece properly establishes is that once the Shooter and his colleagues separate from the service, they must go into the private market to buy insurance to match the coverage for themselves and their families that they had when they worked for the government, and that this transition is an abrupt one. There are benefits available to combat veterans via the VA, which “The Shooter” discusses (this constitutes the second factual error in McCloskey’s piece, more on that in a moment), so what does Bronstein mean when he writes, “Nothing. No pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family…”? Well, he means precisely that. Because while the Shooter may be eligible for some direct benefits from the VA, his wife and two children are eligible for nothing. Not to get too deeply into the philosophy of insurance and the distribution of risk, but that means that under the best scenario, the Shooter is 1/4 covered, which of course means that he is not covered at all. It would be like having a 1/4 roof during a storm. Your house still fills with water. What good does it do the man if he can go to a government chiropractor for his neck when (heaven forbid) his child could get sick and wipe out the family? It is a simple fact that when your family doesn’t have healthcare, you don’t have healthcare. Think the Shooter has healthcare? We respectfully suggest that Ms. McCloskey ask his wife.

Which brings us back to McCloskey’s second mistake. In the Stars & Stripes piece, she further writes:

“Like every combat veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the former SEAL…is automatically eligible for five years of free healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs. But the story doesn’t mention that.”

Now granted, “The Shooter” is a long story, lots of words to sort through, but McCloskey is wrong here. We refer her to this paragraph deeper in the piece: “There is a Transition Assistance Program in the military, but it’s largely remedial level, rote advice of marginal value: Wear a tie to interviews, not your Corfam (black shiny service) shoes. Try not to sneeze in anyone’s coffee. There is also a program at MacDill Air Force Base designed to help Special Ops vets navigate various bureaucracies. And the VA does offer five years of benefits for specific service-related claims—but it’s not comprehensive and it offers nothing for the Shooter’s family

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